There are 47,500 migrants stranded in Greece at the moment. These are the ones who are counted and regarded as part of the ongoing “EU migration” process. There are countless more who have found a way of hovering on the fringes of Greek society, making a buck in the cinemas near Omonia and begging or stealing whatever they can to get by. Certainly the current agreement does nothing for them and does little to sort out the squalor that remains in Idomeni. All it will do at best is to send a signal to the people who manage the boats in Turkey that this Aegean crossing is closed. After 4 years, that is modest progress, but I was talking about the dangers of this people-smuggling issue nearly 15 years ago and no one paid much attention to me then.
So what is changing now?
An agreement about illegal migration to Greece may well have taken place, but to implement it will involve the movement of countless judges and lawyers from Athens to the islands, as well as the 2300 experts cited by Tsipras and imported from mainland europe to oversee the process, because presumably each of the migrants landing on Samos or Lesbos or wherever will demand and be entitled to a legally responsible decision before being shipped back to Turkey (lest the plan fall foul of the declarations made by the UN under the Geneva Convention). More than that, the EU deal will not process back those refugees already on Greek soil- Turkey ruled that out on 10th March!
I find it hard to see how Greece will be able to manage this in practice, so whether the deal with Turkey and the EU is morally or legally sound, it still faces a practical problem. What has taken months of legal work in Athens so far will now be done in a matter of hours in makeshift courts along the seafront of Samos- I doubt it somehow! As I understand it, however, the Syrians who are deported from Turkey to the EU will be sent to specific EU countries to be processed, so this might ease the burden on Greece in the long run and that thought alone might energise the process a bit.
Amnesty calls the EU/turkey agreement a “historic blow to human rights”, though to be fair, when I was in Greece, Amnesty had been infiltrated by some very peculiar people, some of whom were certainly illegal migrants. So, as Christine Keeler might have said, “They would say that, wouldn’t they!”
It seems unclear, at the moment, whether Greece is also being awarded extra funds to deal with this. If not, I await the outcry from Athens (a) that Turkey is being unfairly awarded 6 billion euros and (b) that this much hyped agreement merely moves the problem from one country to another. It might deter the boats in the Aegean, but it will hardly stop the boats already arriving again in Malta from Libya and Tunisia..
And it does not answer the moral question at all- why should a country like Turkey accommodate so many more refugees/migrants than the 28 different countries currently in the EU? I worry that we have somehow shifted all discussions away from the bigger picture and we are focused only on making a quick “deal”- in other words, have we just all become barrow-boys or costermongers in some sort of market-place… oh yes, we have! And wasn’t it once called “the Common Market”?
Whatever trading we do, we must not forget the bigger picture. We need a moral centre, not just a tidy profit or a quick solution.